Try This Tuesday #48: 10 Top Tips for Talking to Your ASD Teen About Sex

Try This Tuesday

Welcome to Try This Tuesday! Cale from Spectrum Siblings has been doing a series of posts on the topic of sex education with a teenager on the autism spectrum, and he is sharing his final installment with us here today.

I’m curious what other parents of teenagers and young adults on the autism spectrum have handled this topic and what has worked (or not worked) for you. What tips would those dealing with other special needs add to or change from this list?

10 Top Tips for Talking to Your ASD Teen About Sex
by Cale

1. Put it into the schedule: If you pull your kid aside during his scheduled computer time, he will spend the entire time thinking about his game, and none of his time listening to you. Try something like: 6-6:20, Mom talks about topic of her choice. This protects privacy, keeps the conversation timed, and offers your tween/teen the notion that you will be talking about something he might not be interested in, but he should listen anyway.

2. Have the conversation at an optimal time: Just after school, when stress is still running high, or just as meds are wearing off, or right before the bedtime routine are all bad ideas. Think about when your child will be most receptive and plan for then.

3. Keep the conversation at their level: If your child is still using words like wee-wee, don’t use scientific terms to describe the body parts. Since the goal is understanding, confusing your child more by using words he isn’t familiar with will only make things more difficult.

4. Be more explicit then you think you need to be: Remember that most of your sex ed. probably came from your peers and using context clues in other people’s conversations. This is probably unlikely for your child, so you may need to add explanations you didn’t include for your neurotypical child.

5. Emphasize privacy of information: Tell your child he shouldn’t fear to ask you questions, but that dinner time or while babysitting younger cousins is not the appropriate time. Perhaps develop a code-phrase which will indicate to you that he wants to talk about a private matter.

6. Emphasize privacy of the body and its functions: Be very detailed about the privacy of the body. Explain that even if others are doing it, it is not okay to touch a girl’s body in public, especially without her consent. Also explain that you never talk about masturbation in front of other people.

7. When explaining consent, go beyond “No means No.”: Most girls are far more subtle then simply saying “No” in a loud clear voice like the movies and health classes suggest. Subtlety is not the Aspie’s forte. Explain terms that girls might use (”I have to wash my hair”) to let a guy down easy.

8. Use special interests to your advantage: Depending on your child’s special interest, this may require some creativity. If your child is interested in cats, watch a few videos of cats mating on the internet. Look for similarities and differences in the ways cats and humans mate (This would be an excellent time to bring up the issue of monogamy).

If your child is interested in movies, watch a few movies with them that include a romance. Try to find examples where the guy did the right things (bringing flowers, complimenting her, waiting until the right time), and ones where the guys did something wrong (pushing her, manipulating her, continuing without consent).

9. Discuss time lines and patience: In most movies, the characters go from meeting to sex within one date. Explain that this doesn’t happen in real life, especially for teenagers. Ensure your child knows that it might be several dates before he even gets a good-night kiss.

10. Don’t think one conversation gets you off the hook: The birds and bees convo is not one you only have once, especially with an ASD teen. This is a ton of information to take in all at once, and the combination of non-attention and slowed verbal processing means much of the information will go in one ear and out the other. Try and bring it up at least once a month, so the info stays fresh.

Cale is a college student majoring in Behavioral Neuroscience and Social Psychology who has also been diagnosed with Asperger’s as a preteen, Sensory Processing Disorder as a child, and Tourette’s Syndrome more recently.

He talks on his blog about what it means for him to be autistic, how he copes with some of the more difficult aspects of this neurological organization, and resources he has found useful. You can read more of his thoughts on this and other topics at Spectrum Siblings or follow him on Twitter.

We have decided (for a variety of reasons) to stop putting up a Mr. Linky on this column, but we would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Please join in and share your opinion in the comments. If you have a creative solution, product or idea that you would like to share, please email me at trish(at)anotherpieceofthepuzzle(dot)com.

As the host of Try This Tuesday, Trish shares some of the solutions she has found to make life easier and invites you to do the same. You can also find her at her blogs, Another Piece of the Puzzle and Autism Interrupted.

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